These 16 behind-the-scenes details from the making of The Social Network pull back the curtain behind one of the most acclaimed films of the 21st century. When The Social Network hit the big screen in 2010, the general public did not know much about Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. By the time Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher’s modern-day coming of age tale faded to black, the world had a hard time seeing anything but Jesse Eisenberg’s face when they thought of Zuckerberg.
Sorkin based his Academy Award-winning screenplay on the years 2003-2005. That’s when the brilliant but introverted Harvard student came up with the idea for Facebook. Sorkin’s screenplay certainly does not paint a pleasant picture of how a hacker became the world’s youngest billionaire. The advertising tagline for the movie was “Punk. Billionaire. Genius.”
Many spectators just labeled Zuckerberg a jerk after seeing the story of how he betrays his best friend and cheats several others out of their rightful piece of the Facebook fortune.
What went on behind the scenes of the film Fincher jokingly called “the Citizen Kane of John Hughes movies”? What was Facebook’s contribution to the movie? How did they shoot Armie Hammer playing the Winklevoss twins? Which major actor passed on the opportunity to play Zuckerberg?
David Fincher Required 99 Takes For The Movie’s Opening Scene
Fincher is an unapologetic perfectionist. He comes from the Stanley Kubrick school of filmmaking, which often requires an actor to do multiple takes of a scene. The opening scene of The Social Network features Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) at a bar. It is ultimately the fortuitous turning point that sparks enough rage in Zuckerberg to create a site called Facemash, which ranks Harvard University women based on their appearance.
Fincher believes it's an important scene because of how it educates the viewer. "The first scene in a movie should teach the audience how to watch it," he says.
It may not look like a complicated scene to film, despite the rapid pace of the Sorkin-esque dialogue. However, Fincher still demanded his actors do 99 takes.
"There’s a method to his madness," says Hammer. "Yes, you do a lot of takes, but you feel extremely protected. He told me he knows that actors are inherently vain - we sit in front of a mirror and think to ourselves, 'Oh, in this moment, I'm gonna give him this look.' And he didn't want us to bring that to set.”
One may wonder why a director needs to shoot the same scene over and over and over again. "I try to spend as much time shooting as I can," Fincher explains. "The whole idea about only doing three or four takes... It's like, 'No, what about this? What if this happened, or what if they say it that way?' And, you know, sometimes people are game, sometimes people are like, 'Sh*t! I don't remember my name!'"
One additional reason for the multiple takes is because Fincher wanted the opening scene to be exactly seven minutes and 22 seconds. The director knew exactly how long each scene needed to be in order to shoot Sorkin's 162-page script in two hours. In fact, Fincher timed each scene to the second.
Aaron Sorkin Based His Screenplay On Three 'Conflicting Versions Of The Truth'
Sorkin earned the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for his work on The Social Network. The acclaimed writer used three separate depositions from two separate lawsuits to write the main crux of the movie’s narrative. This differs greatly from Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires, which is based on Eduardo Saverin's side of the story.
Sorkin used the "Rashomon" style of unreliable narrators to structure his script. He said, "I liked that there were three different and oftentimes conflicting versions of the truth. I liked courtroom dramas, and I liked Rashomon, so I wanted to tell all three versions. I make it very clear to the audience that facts are in dispute, and that the movie continually reminds you that you are listening to a series of unreliable narrators."
The three varying points of view are from Saverin, the Winklevoss twins, and Zuckerberg. "I didn’t choose one and decide that it was the truth. I dramatized the fact that there were conflicting stories," added Sorkin.
Sorkin Was Glad Zuckerberg Did Not Participate In The Film
Sorkin was relieved he didn't have to worry about possibly turning the movie into a "puff piece." "I completely understand [why Zuckerberg and Facebook wouldn't participate in making The Social Network]. And more than understand it, I'll be honest - I'm grateful," said Sorkin. "We wanted to be able to say we tried really hard, and we did. But we did not want Mark participating, because we did not want to give the sense that this was a Facebook-endorsed movie, a puff piece of some kind."
The writer never even met Zuckerberg while he was creating the "character" for the movie. "I feel like, had I met Mark, I would have felt a certain obligation to make the character sound like Mark, walk like Mark, all of those things," said Sorkin. "And frankly, I probably would have had an affection for him that I wouldn’t have wanted to betray."
Unsurprisingly, the people at Facebook were not happy with the movie. "I wasn't there, but it was relayed to me by the person whose job it was to deliver the movie print to the screening room that they were... appropriately appalled," said Fincher.
Zuckerberg Called The Movie 'Hurtful'
Ever wonder how Mark Zuckerberg felt about The Social Network? At its core, the movie is a story about how an overly ambitious jealous guy betrays his best friend, screws over a bunch of other people, and behaves like a petulant brat.
During a live Q&A in 2014, Zuckerberg talked about just how inaccurately he thought Sorkin and company told "his story." He said:
I haven't met the writer of the movie. I met [Jesse Eisenberg] once. They went out of their way in the movie to try to get some interesting details correct like design of office, but with overarching plot about why we're building Facebook or how we did it, they just kind of made up a bunch of stuff that I found kind of hurtful. I take our mission really seriously. We're here not to just build a company, but to help connect the world and help people connect to people they love. The thing that I found most interesting about the movie was that they made up this plotline about how I decided to create Facebook to attract girls.